Traditional Eastern Orthodox Chant Documentation Project

Regional Chant Systems: Early Russian Chants

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INFORMATION (History, Theory, Practice, Notation, etc.)

(coming soon)

Muscovite Znamenny Chant

Demestvenny Chant

Put' Chant

Great Znamenny Chant

Strochnoe Penie (Pre-Western native Russian polyphony)

Miscellaneous (Other Early Chant Systems)


Small (or "Lesser") Znamenny Chant

Unfortunately, different writers use these terms ("Greater" and "Lesser" chant, some introducing also a "Middle" chant) in somewhat different ways, so one must be a bit wary in offering definitions. With that caveat, let me propose that the "Greater Znamennyi Chant" consists mostly of "popevki" – the collection of melodic phrases that make up the eight tones. There are several hundred of these in all, and their occurrence is not predictable, but must be learned for each text. The "Lesser Chant" is based on the simpler formulary principle of composition, and is found particularly in the samoglasen tones, used for stichera on "Lord, I cry" and the Aposticha at Vespers and at Lauds and the Aposticha at Matins. The same principle is found in the samohlasen tones of the "Kievan Chant", which is in fact simply the Ukrainian/Bielarusian rescension of the Znamennyi chant; and hence in the melodies for stichera of the Russian Court or Common Chant, which are simplified forms of the Kievan chant. Here there is a predicatable sequence of phrases, and the phrases themselves are few in number and simple in construction, containing a lot of recitative that can be applied to more or fewer syllables depending on the text to be sung.

For more on this see Johann von Gardner, "Russian Church Singing", Vol. 1, Orthodox Worship and Hymnography, trans. by Vladimir Morosan (Crestwood, New York: St Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1980), chapter 3.

Stephen Reynolds

HOMECatalog of Regional Chant Systems